Then the Roman commended the young prince for abandoning rash courses,
and adopting a safe and expedient policy. Tiridates first dwelt much
on the nobility of his race, but went on to speak in a tone of moderation.
He would go to Rome, and bring the emperor a new glory, a suppliant
Arsacid, while Parthia was prosperous. It was then agreed that Tiridates
should lay down his royal crown before Caesar’s image, and resume
it only from the hand of Nero. The interview then ended with a kiss.
After an interval of a few days there was a grand display on both
sides; on the one, cavalry ranged in squadrons with their national
ensigns; on the other, stood the columns of our legions with glittering
eagles and standards and images of deities, after the appearance of
a temple. In the midst, on a tribunal, was a chair of state, and on
the chair a statue of Nero. To this Tiridates advanced, and having
slain the customary victims, he removed the crown from his head, and
set it at the foot of the statue; whereupon all felt a deep thrill
of emotion, rendered the more intense by the sight which yet lingered
before their eyes, of the slaughter or siege of Roman armies. “But
now,” they thought, “the calamity is reversed; Tiridates is about
to go, a spectacle to the world, little better than a prisoner.”
To military glory Corbulo added courtesy and hospitality. When the
king continually asked the reason of whatever he noticed which was
new to him, the announcements, for example, by a centurion of the
beginnings of each watch, the dismissal of the guests by the sound
of a trumpet, and the lighting by a torch from beneath of an altar
in front of the headquarters, Corbulo, by exaggerating everything,
filled him with admiration of our ancient system. Next day Tiridates
begged for time which, as he was about to enter on so long a journey,
might suffice for a previous visit to his brothers and his mother.
Meanwhile he gave up his daughter as a hostage, and prepared a suppliant
letter to Nero.
He then departed, and found Pacorus in Media, and Vologeses at Ecbatana,
who was by no means unconcerned for his brother. In fact, Vologeses
had entreated Corbulo by special messengers, that Tiridates might
not have to endure any badge of slavery, or have to deliver up his
sword, or be debarred the honour of embracing the governors of the
provinces, or have to present himself at their doors, and that he
might be treated at Rome with as much respect as the consuls. Accustomed,
forsooth, to foreign arrogance, he had no knowledge of us, who value
the reality of empire and disregard its empty show.
That same year the emperor put into possession of the Latin franchise
the tribes of the maritime Alps. To the Roman knights he assigned
places in the circus in front of the seats of the people, for up to
that time they used to enter in a promiscuous throng, as the Roscian
law extended only to fourteen rows in the theatre. The same year witnessed
shows of gladiators as magnificent as those of the past. Many ladies
of distinction, however, and senators, disgraced themselves by appearing
in the amphitheatre.
In the year of the consulship of Caius Laecanius and Marcus Licinius
a yet keener impulse urged Nero to show himself frequently on the
public stage. Hitherto he had sung in private houses or gardens, during
the juvenile games, but these he now despised, as being but little
frequented, and on too small a scale for so fine a voice. As, however,
he did not venture to make a beginning at Rome, he chose Neapolis,
because it was a Greek city. From this as his starting-point he might
cross into Achaia, and there, winning the well-known and sacred garlands
of antiquity, evoke, with increased fame, the enthusiasm of the citizens.
Accordingly, a rabble of the townsfolk was brought together, with
those whom the excitement of such an event had attracted from the
neighbouring towns and colonies, and such as followed in the emperor’s
train to pay him honour or for various objects. All these, with some
companies of soldiers, filled the theatre at Neapolis.
There an incident occurred, which many thought unlucky, though to
the emperor it seemed due to the providence of auspicious deities.
The people who had been present, had quitted the theatre, and the
empty building then fell in without harm to anyone. Thereupon Nero
in an elaborate ode thanked the gods, celebrating the good luck which
attended the late downfall, and as he was on his way to cross the
sea of Hadria, he rested awhile at Beneventum, where a crowded gladiatorial
show was being exhibited by Vatinius. The man was one of the most
conspicuously infamous sights in the imperial court, bred, as he had
been, in a shoemaker’s shop, of a deformed person and vulgar wit,
originally introduced as a butt. After a time he grew so powerful
by accusing all the best men, that in influence, wealth, and ability
to injure, he was pre-eminent even in that bad company.
The Annals by Tacitus